In 2018, the Pittsburgh Pirates made outfielder Travis Swaggerty their first-round pick. Swaggerty was drafted 10th overall and played his college ball at the University of South Alabama.
Upon being drafted, Swaggerty was lauded as the best college bat in his class. Heading into the draft, he was described as having raw power that hadn’t been discovered yet but hit consistently for a high average.
Fast forward to 2023 and Travis Swaggerty has had a small cup of coffee so far in the Major Leagues. He’s battled lengthy injuries that have seen the 25-year-old accrue only nine plate appearances across five games in his MLB career. Certainly, the Pirates would love to see him finally make his mark in the Major Leagues.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 18, 2023
Travis Swaggerty’s Pittsburgh Pirate Dreams
Pirates Could Use Breakout From Travis Swaggerty
The outfielder will turn 26 this season and still has yet to make a mark on the Pirates’ roster. Swaggerty is one of the old regime’s first-rounders so those players typically don’t get as many chances with new front offices. That’s why he is using this spring to make a case to head north with the Buccos.
Spring Training stats may not mean much to the general public. However, guys like Swaggerty need to use Spring Training to make the roster. He’s made the most of it so far with a .391/.417/.652 slash line. The 25-year-old hit his third home run of the spring on Saturday and is making a case to crack the 26-man roster.
Pittsburgh signed veterans Andrew McCutchen and Connor Joe this off-season. Bryan Reynolds is going to man centerfield if he isn’t traded. Youngsters Jack Suwinski and Ji Hwan Bae are bubble guys trying to make it. Canaan Smith-Njigba got hurt in the early part of the year last season but is another young outfielder in the Pirates’ system.
Currently, the outfield is full of options for the Pirates so Swaggerty needed a big spring. He’s certainly having one.
Travis Swaggerty has the speed to play centerfield in the big leagues. He is an above-average fielder, something the Pirates could use defensively. However, he did make two errors in the outfield in just four chances across those nine games.
Does Swaggerty Have A Path To The Big Leagues?
One of the bigger problems Swaggerty faced in his few MLB at-bats last year is making contact. In his nine plate appearances, Swaggerty struck out four times. He looked overmatched on most of the nine occasions and only collected one hit.
That has to change.
Bringing Swaggerty north with the Opening Day roster could be a boost to his confidence. With Reynolds and McCutchen likely manning two of the three outfield spots, Swaggerty’s strong spring could play him into a starting role to open the season.
Joe is more of a depth piece that was drafted by the Pirates back in 2014 and found his way back through trade. Suwinski struggled last season anywhere that wasn’t PNC Park and struck out at more than a 30% clip. Smith-Njigba, the brother of likely NFL draft pick Jaxon, is a stocky but quick outfielder. He is also having a good spring and making his own case.
Sooner or later, the Pirates have to find out what Travis Swaggerty is. The talent seems to be there after he was a top-10 pick in the draft. You’d like to think injuries are what held him back and a fully healthy season could make him a relevant piece to future contending Pirates teams.
Swaggerty’s injuries have not been ones that were a quick rehab stint and return. In June of 2021, Swaggerty was playing a game in Triple-A and tore up his shoulder diving back into first base on a pickoff attempt. He missed the remainder of that season.
In 2022, he had another injury, this time to his left-throwing shoulder, and a concussion. Those injuries hampered his season early but he then rebounded and played well down the stretch in the minors after his Major League cup of coffee.
Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out an entire season of development for him as well.
Even soon after he was drafted, his now-wife Peyton was diagnosed with cancer. That kind of news so early in your professional career would weigh heavily on your mind. It’s safe to say that Swaggerty has faced tons of adversity and continues to overcome it on his path toward a full-time role in Pittsburgh.
It may end up that Swaggerty becomes a bench player for the Pirates. Even then, he’d still be useful as a late-inning replacement to limit McCutchen’s innings in the outfield. This would give the Pirates another option to use McCutchen as the designated hitter and give Swaggerty more starts in the outfield.
However things shake out this season, it may be Swaggerty’s last chance to maintain a 40-man spot with the influx of higher-regarded prospects knocking on the doorstep of the Major Leagues. He’s put together a nice spring and given the Pirates’ brass a lot to think about.
Main photo credits:
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports